End Immunity for University Faculty Members Guilty of Sexual Harassment

by: Charlie Nguyen

Target: Carol Christ, Interim Provost, University of California

Goal: Issue harsher punishments for faculty found guilty of sexual harassment.

Details continue to emerge from several cases of sexual harassment involving UC Berkeley faculty. An ongoing lawsuit filed by former Berkeley employee Tyann Sorrell alleges that the university went to great lengths to protect former dean Sujit Choudhry, who has already been found guilty of misconduct. Sorrell, on the other hand, was offered little to no support, and was even told by university officials that she needed to use her personal sick time and vacation days to avoid contact with Choudhry. Sorrell’s case enters the national spotlight months after Geoffrey Marcy, a famous Berkeley astronomer, resigned following reports that he was spared serious disciplinary action by the university after sexually harassing students for nearly a decade.

In yet another case, two graduate students, Kathleen Gutierrez and Erin Bennett, have filed discrimination complaints against assistant professor Blake Wentworth. Following an all-too-familiar pattern, the university has already found the faculty member guilty of misconduct, but has failed to impose significant disciplinary sanctions. Disturbing reports recently released by the university include documentation of harassment cases involving 19 employees. Of the 19, only staff members, and no faculty, were fired or resigned.

UC Berkeley’s policies regarding sexual harassment show a flagrant tendency to protect individuals in positions of power within the institutional hierarchy. Across campus, student protests have erupted while administrative officers are at sixes and sevens. Berkeley’s executive vice chancellor and provost, Claude Steele, has resigned in the wake of the scandal, saying he could no longer stand by the university’s treatment of Sorrell.

Sign the petition below to criticize UC Berkeley administrators for their outrageous management of sexual harassment claims made against faculty members. Demand that the school immediately instate policies that will strip faculty members of unfair immunity.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Provost Carol Christ,

Assuming leadership over the University of California at Berkeley during a time of crisis, you are in a prime position to alleviate some of the pain that has been caused by the university’s failure to support victims of sexual harassment.

Reports recently released show that out of 19 employees involved in cases of sexual harassment, only staff members were fired or resigned. Protection that should be offered to victims has been extended to faculty members who have continued to evade significant disciplinary sanctions.

The policy of offering immunity to perpetrators of misconduct based on their professional status is deplorable, and must end with you. I am urging you to catalyze a radical shift in UC Berkeley’s priorities regarding sexual harassment by putting procedures into place that will ensure all perpetrators are appropriately punished.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Charlie Nguyen

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143 Signatures

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